What It’s Like to Fly During the Pandemic: Vancouver to Winnipeg

Our Thoughts

Here’s what a domestic flight in Canada during COVID-19 was like. Masks and deserted airports aside, the real fright was that no coffee was available at the airport itself. Travelers take note: arrive caffeinated and well fed.

I had to fly to Winnipeg, Manitoba for business, during the pandemic. Here's how it went, and travellers take note: economy class had no food service and there was no coffee available past security in some airports.

Arrival at YVR

Arriving at the vacant airport was ghostly enough without the mandatory mask.

Check in was easy and touchless and heading through security, my temperature was checked immediately. It took no time at all (in fact, it sort of felt like flying in the 60s and 70s) and I was off to the Maple Leaf Air Canada Lounge.

At the lounge, seating was more than adequately six feet apart. The app, alongside my chair, allowed for food service, and drinks were on demand. A nice touch: Air Canada upgraded its hand soap to Molton Brown, a brand from London, which is definitely an upgrade from the normal soap dispensers, especially with the cadence of hand washing these days.

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge

Boarding was seamless and by group number to allow for greater physical distancing and the aircraft was spotless.

Headed East: On Board the Flight

Once on board the flight, the flight attendants donned protective outerwear. They handed those in business class, what I call a safety kit. The kit was a transparent bag made up of a bottle of water, pretzels, a disposable face mask, two hand wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

Safety kit

It’s a thoughtful touch to try and instill confidence in the passenger that the airline is doing all it can to keep its paying passengers safe.

On board, masks were mandatory at all times, except when eating or drinking.

Masked and on board

The cold meal was a spicy prawn dish with salad, a bread roll and butter. It also came with a chicken wrap—no choice, chicken for all. Dessert was a sort of a custard gelatinous dish and alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea and juice were made available.

Economy was reduced to coffee, tea or juice.

Homeward Bound

On the return leg, I arrived at Winnipeg airport at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. departure. The airport was  deserted other than the crew and passengers for the flight back to Vancouver.

Lonely airport

None of the airport’s stores were open. Note: if you’re like me, and you need your caffeine fix, have a cup before arriving at the airport and clearing security. Otherwise, grit your teeth and wait for the coffee service on board.

The flight back to Vancouver was uneventful and included a fresh safety kit.

The boxed breakfast included a tray of yogurt, some fresh fruit—strawberry and mango—and some granola so you could make a muesli mix. It also came with a cheese platter which I found interesting as I’m not particularly fond of cheese first thing in the morning, a bread roll and butter.

Thoughts on My Next Flight

It’s been over a year since I was last on an aircraft. While the abandoned airports left me feeling a little uneasy, my domestic flight felt safe, and wearing a mask while on board was easy enough, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a long haul international flight just yet.

Let us know in the comments below—would you fly domestically or internally during the pandemic? Have you and what was your experience like?

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